Is Muhammad Prophesied in the Bible?
Virtually every religion that began after Christianity attempts to show that it is compatible with the Bible. They also endeavor, usually quite laboriously, to show that their founder or faith is referred to in the Bible.17 Thus it comes as no surprise to find that Muslims also claim that their founder was prophesied in both the Old and New Testaments.
Our question still needs to be answered: Although Islam is not unique in claiming to be verified by the Bible, might not its claims be nonetheless true? There are some minor, less detailed verses which Muslims claim are "prophecies" related to Muhammad. However, the verses which most Muslims cite as the most explicative are Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and John 14:16; 15:26; and 16:7.
1. Deuteronomy 18:15-18
The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.
According to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, "Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die."
And the Lord said to me: "What they have spoken is good.
I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him."
This is universally held by Muslims as a prophesy pertaining to Muhammad.18 There are a number of reasons why they believe it cannot be referring Jesus.
First, the Promised Prophet was to be a Lawgiving Prophet.... Jesus laid no claim to giving a new law.... Secondly, the Promised Prophet was to be raised not from among Israel but from among their brethren and Jesus was an Israelite.... Thirdly, the prophecy was: "I will put my words in his mouth." But the gospels do not consist of words which God put in Jesus' mouth. They only tell us the story of Jesus and what he said in some of his public addresses and what his disciples said or did on different occasions. Fourthly, the Promised One was to be a Prophet, while the Christian view is that Jesus was not a Prophet, but the son of God.19
The Muslim will then point out the many ways in which Muhammad and Moses were alike. Each appeared among idolaters. They were both lawgivers who were initially rejected by their people and had to flee into exile, only to return later to lead their nations. They both married and had children, and were military leaders as well as spiritual leaders. After both of their deaths their successors conquered Palestine.
The Muslim conclusion is that this prophecy was fulfilled only by Muhammad: "If these words do not apply to Muhammad, they still remain unfulfilled."20
Before we continue any farther, let us first analyze these points. The first objection raised against this prophecy having been fulfilled in Jesus was that Jesus was not a lawgiver. Muslims who claim this only show their own lack of understanding of the New Testament, as shown in John 13:34 and Galatians 6:2:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love another.
Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ
The next objection to this prophecy having been fulfilled in Jesus was that "brethren" must refer to the Ishmaelites, not to the Israelites themselves. This argument can easily be refuted by simply looking at how the term "brethren" is used in the Bible. One cogent example is found in Deuteronomy 17:15. Moses instructs the Israelites:
"You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother."
Now, did Israel ever appoint a foreigner as king over them? More specifically, was an Ishmaelite ever appointed king over Israel? Of course not. To choose a king "from among your brethren" refers to choosing someone from one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Likewise, the prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18 was to be an Israelite.
Another objection to Deuteronomy 18:15-18 being fulfilled in Jesus is that the Gospels allegedly do not consist of words which God gave Jesus, vitally important in light of verse 18. However, to say that Jesus did not speak what God the Father gave Him again betrays an abysmal ignorance of the New Testament: "For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak" (John 12:49)21
The final objection raised against Jesus' fulfilling these verses is that Christians supposedly only view Jesus as the Sun of God, not as a prophet. Once again we see that the Muslim too often has little familiarity with the New Testament. Jesus Himself, prophesying His impending death, said that He must continue His journey to Jerusalem "for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem" (Luke 13:33).22
The Muslim will point out that I still have not explained the many similarities between Moses and Muhammad. It is true that they have many correspondences, but there are also many differences. For example, if Muhammad was illiterate as virtually all Muslims assert, then he was not like Moses who "was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22). Muhammad is said to have received his revelations from the angel Gabriel, while Moses received the Law directly from God. Muhammad performed no signs or miracles to verify his calling, yet Moses performed many signs. Also, Muhammad was Arabic, while Moses was of Jewish origin.
If one were to peruse the Gospels, he would see that although Jesus was unlike Moses in some ways, in other ways He was very much like him. They were both Jewish, which is very important in light of what we have learned about the term "your brethren." They both left Egypt to minister to their people (Heb. 11:27; Matt 2:15). Both also forsook great riches in order to better identify with their people (Heb. 11:24-26; John 6:15; 2 Cor. 8:9).
So we see that both Jesus and Muhammad had similarities with Moses. In what special way then was this coming prophet to be "like unto Moses"? The answer is found in Deuteronomy 34:8-10 where two distinguishing characteristics of Moses are listed:
But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,
In all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land,
And by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
This is a direct reference to Deuteronomy 18:15-18. Notice that two specific things are mentioned about Moses here in referring back to the earlier prophecy. The first is that the Lord knew Moses "face to face. "23 Muhammad never had this type of relationship with God; indeed, in Islam God is so transcendent that except for the unique case of Moses He never spoke directly with men.
Jesus, "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14), is the only one who ever had a relationship with God like Moses had. In fact, Jesus' relationship far surpasses that of Moses: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).
The second characteristic feature of Moses, that he came with many "signs" and "wonders," hardly needs to be expounded on. The many miracles that both Moses and Jesus worked are well known. The Qur'an itself testifies that Muhammad worked no miracles.24
And finally, Jesus Himself tells us who the prophet is that Deuteronomy 18:15-18 is prophesying: "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me" (John 5:46).25
2. John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7
Muslims claim that the verses speaking of the coming "Comforter" ("Paracletos" in the original Greek) are actually references to the coming of Muhammad. The reason for this is that in the Qur'an Jesus is made to say that after Himself an apostle would be sent, "Whose name shall be Ahmad" (Qur'an 61:6). The following is Yusuf Ali's commentary on this verse:
"Ahmad," or "Muhammad," the Praised One, is almost a translation of the Greek word Periclytos. In the present Gospel of John, xiv. 16, xv. 26, and xvi. 7, the word "Comforter" in the English version is for the Greek word "Paracletos," which means "Advocate," "one called to the help of another, a kind friend" rather than "Comforter." Our doctors contend that Paracletos is a corrupt reading for Periclytos, and that in their [sic] original saying of Jesus there was a prophecy of our holy Prophet Ahmad by name.26
Thus Muslims believe that all of our Bibles have been corrupted and that the apostle John really used the word "Periclytos" in these verses, not the word "Paracletos."
In examining the Muslim claim that the text has been corrupted the textual critic would quite rightly look to the actual textual evidence. There are over 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament which date from before A.D. 350. Not once in any of the manuscripts which contain these passages do we find the word "Periclytos" used. The word that we find used every time is "Paracletos." Thus, there is absolutely no textual evidence which would back up their contention that the text was corrupted.
The Muslim position is even more lamentable when we carefully read these verses to see what Jesus was saying. There is a great deal which could be said about each verse; however, we will limit our review to the obvious discrepancies between the Islamic position and what is actually being said: "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter,27 that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:16). First of all, Jesus said that the Father "will give you another Comforter." Who was Jesus addressing in these verses? The Arabs, or more specifically, the Ishmaelites? Of course not. He is speaking to Jewish believers. Hence the "Comforter" would be sent initially to them. This cannot be referring to Muhammad.
Second, this verse states that the "Paracletos," the "Comforter," would "abide with you forever." How can this apply to Muhammad? The Muslim prophet has been dead and buried for over 1,300 years.
"Even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:17). Here "the Spirit of Truth" is used as another title or synonym for the "Paraclete." We see from this verse that the "Paraclete" would be "in you." Again, it is impossible to reconcile this statement with the Islamic position.
John 14:26 completely devastates the Muslim hypothesis that Muhammad was actually the one being prophesied in the verses dealing with the coming "Comforter" (or "Paraclete"): "But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." Jesus said that the "Comforter" is "the Holy Spirit." This is the reason why all of the Muslim apologists stay away from this verse, only quoting the verses they like. Jesus commanded His disciples — in Acts 1:4-5 — not to "depart from Jerusalem," for they would "be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
Do these verses really apply to Muhammad appearing 600 years later in Mecca? Only a person already biased and completely credulous could believe this. The fulfillment of Jesus' words occurred 10 days later on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), not six centuries later, hundreds of miles from Jerusalem.
Prof. 'Abdu 'L-Ahad Dauud, in Muhammad in the Bible, states that this alleged prophecy "is one of the strongest proofs that Muhammad was truly a Prophet and that the Qur'an is really a divine revelation"28 (emphasis added). If these verses constitute one of their "strongest proofs," then I will not belabor the reader with "lesser proofs." I believe that Blaise Pascal succinctly summarized the situation: "Any man can do what [Muhammad] has done; for he performed no miracles, he was not foretold. No man can do what Christ has done."29